Up me Up High!

Up me up, Daddy,
Up me up high!

Up you go and down again,
My little pumpkin pie!

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“It is the child in man that is the source of his uniqueness and creativeness, and the playground is the optimal milieu for the unfolding of his capacities and talents”.

Eric Hoffer

Looking at the desolate concrete of the School at Thalaiyattumund, we decided to create a small play area for the junior children, a swing, a slide and if we could stretch the budget, add a seesaw.

When we consulted the ever-buoyant HM, Radha, she said “Why buy? Use the equipment stored in our shed!” To our horror, she assured us that a couple of swings, a climbing stack, a seesaw, volleyball posts, were all kept in storage for a number of years under lock and key.

Recovering, we got happy, thinking that our budget would be greatly benefited. Little did we realise that resurrecting old equipment would actually stretch the budget. Dealing with masons, smart-ass welders and  ‘mud-guys’  took a toll on patience, time and resources. Work was done, undone and redone.

The slide was the easiest part. Ordered from a manufacturer from Coimbatore, it got majestically installed  in a corner of the play area. As a bonus we bought a rocking seesaw which needs no installation.

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But then, children sliding down got hurt when they hit the rough concrete . The landing area beneath all the play equipment had to be covered with a soft material. Mud contractors quoted ridiculous amounts. Sand prices  had shot up incredibly. The felt like soft landing material seen in the play areas of fancy high rises was too fancily priced.

Research on the Net, consultations with a Professor at IIT, Chennai ; trips to school playgrounds followed. Local play areas had  beaten down grass underneath.  The IIT Proff suggested wood chips or strips of old rubber tyres instead. The new ideas met with resistance from the school staff . Eventually they turned out to be too expensive and we had to go back to haggle with the  the mud contractors.

One fine morning.. ‘ Its done’ he announced. Rushing there we found that he had covered the area with more rubble than mud. Asked him to remove it . While we searched for an alternative. For days after that, he would appear like Hamlet’s Ghost whenever we were in the vicinity, asking to be paid for the ‘work done’.

More consultations, haggling , and several peace talks later, he accepted to get better mud in place and cover with turf. The work is still in progress.

But looking at the happy faces of the children, its all worth it , don’t you think?

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Willie Wonkah, can we meet?

Every child’s dream. A trip to a chocolate factory. And where else but at Ooty, the town of home made chocolates. We finally were able to make this dream happen on the 25th of January, although we knew Ooty would be crazily crowded on holidays. The hopes of the children were more important than  minor nuisances.

Girls from Thalaiyattumund Municipal School and boys from CMM HIgher Secondary School gathered at the library by 9 a.m. Several young and pretty young women gave up a precious holiday to make these children happy. The Mehtas -Jyothi, NIkita, Harshita were joined by more Mehtas from out-of-town-  and her friend, Garima. Aditi Devason  joined us at the Chocolate Musuem on HPF road.

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After a tour of the Musuem, with lots of oohs and aahs and of course, samples. we left to have some fun. Reaching Kamaraj Sagar, we hopped off the van to explore the small dam. Like any dam, it was a picturesque scene. Our spiel on power generation was cut short by the boys climbing up a steep wall, to either slide down or jump off in heart stopping leaps.

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Gharima teaches the girls how to whistle

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The girls triumphant, after they climb up too!

Further along the Mysore road, we found an empty spot to have lunch. Finally the children from both schools bonded, sharing food and jokes. Post lunch, we set off to explore the area. A tiny pond, flowers, meadows, sheep, cows… this perfect spot had it all.

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What can be more pleasing than to receive a flower?

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Nikita becomes one of them as she organises the girls in games. Aditi watches , bemused.

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Harshita joins in wholeheartelyIMG_3647

A group memory of a wonderful day.

Friends of Siragugal Day

The past few weeks have been rushed with preparations and rehearsals for a public function to mark 5 years of our Society.

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We decided to invite a number of people who have been supportive of us through these years.  And create a small presentation to show the work we have been doing. Of course the budget would be as tiny as we could squeeze it.

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YWCA, Anandagiri was fixed as the venue. The glass dining room is a very pleasant space. Mrs.Chaterjee graciously waived charges for the stage and sound system.

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The theme for the play with the children came up during a brainstorming session. We would showcase the various classes going on at Siragugal – yoga, english, story telling, science, computers and dance and make it as  interactive as possible.  Sapna wrote the draft for the play while the various teachers rehearsed their scenes with the children.

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Sangeetha did a great job with the song ‘we shall overcome’ with the kids of Thalaiyattumund.

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Nivishna gave the welcome.

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Jothi compereed the event and gave a beautiful movie style presentation of our past events. Kalyani presented the vision for the future years.

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Roopa appealed to people to join us in events. And opened the floor for audience interaction. DSC_0360

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We finished with tea, sandwiches and muffins

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The great team !!

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Proud to be a Volunteer

Children are like blotting paper, wherever they go, they absorb what is around them. Having been associated with children from different walks of life for the past 4 – 5 years as a friend and a mentor at the Nilgiri Library; conducting storytelling sessions and craft classes, I have been able to tap into the imagination and talent of these little geniuses with ease. So it was undoubtedly with great interest that I welcomed the opportunity to work with under privileged children who were from in and around Ooty, through Siragugal.

Well, to be frank, at the onset, I was a little apprehensive about my inability to   IMG_1888communicate in the local language, i.e., Tamil. But as I am a positive thinker, I gave myself this opportunity to learn the language from these kids itself and in return teach them communicative English. Overall this seemed to be a perfect arrangement.

I soon realised that these children were much wealthier than we were; as they are street smart, aware and alert about their surroundings, have views about many  things and have loving natures with no inhibitions and with no strings attached unlike the other affluent people around.

I also came to understand from the other members of Siragugal that in order for the children to comprehend and start using English as their language of communication, their interest needed to be piqued through games and activities.

That is how it all started – a beautiful relationship of teaching and learning. It has been a very rewarding, entertaining and satisfactory journey so far. The small  positive changes in the way they talk, the way they behave and the way they interact with others brought about by the understanding of the etiquette  of this world makes us proud of the way we have been able to reach out to these children one step at a time.

For me, Siragugal has become a way of life which I look forward to everyday. I’m really grateful to my friends, Dr. Sheila and Sapna for introducing me to this wonderful platform and of course, to Kalyani aunty for welcoming me into her fold with open arms.

I just hope and wish that the children are as happy to be part of what I teach as I’m in learning from them.

 Roopa is one of those wonderful people who will be there if she says she will be there. One doesn’t have to cross check. Although she joined us fairly recently, she has fitted in perfectly. But  then anything executed by Roopa is always perfect. We are so proud and happy to have this committed member of Siragugal with us. 

 

 

World Book Day

World Book Day , designated by UNESCO on April 23, as being close to the birth and death day of Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes, would have gone largely ignored by us. But for a call from Grace, Headmistress of Elementary Municipal School, Main Bazaar.

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The Govt had decreed that all children of the Municipal schools be taken to visit a library and be enrolled as members on World Book Day. She wanted to bring her children, all 27 of them to OUR LIBRARY.

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So, we rose rather well, to the occasion in less than 24 hours.

Sapna said she would teach the children a song . ‘If you are Happy, then clap your hands..’

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She followed it up with two simple games.

Meanwhile, Susan Daniels got her story ready. Susan wanted to go with chicken little to bring in some involvement with’bad touching ‘ because of everyone’s  deep concern with the recent spate of children being raped. She settled for The Three Pigs. And did a great story reading with lots of drama.

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S of Hippocampus said we should display lots of books, even some covers on our T-shirts. And gave an idea for a good game with books. This wasn’t played eventually because the children really can’t read new words. We reserve it for older kids later.

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Anitha Devraj turned up and took some great pictures  the best that have ever been taken so far at the Library.

Dr.Sheela Nambiar came and participated fully with the children. She has identified some under nourished children for follow up. While Susan has  offered to work with the slow ones.

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Pavithra who had donated some money earlier to buy some presents for the children on the occasion of her son’s birthday gave some more to buy books for these children. They went home happily clutching a drawing book, an activity book and a pack of crayons.

Dowlath donated clothes from her shop for the children.

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And of course, there were buns and biscuits. What is a function for kids without eats?

 

Beautiful Thalaiyattumund!

IMG_1896This was the backdrop to our play. Painted by Kalyani in 24 hours. It specified the spirit of the play – a clean and beautiful environment.

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The Team: or most of it.

Daisy Paul came all the way from Coonoor to help it get staged. She was the originator of the idea of staging a play. Poor Daisy used to send the screenplay by mail and then turn up in a couple of days to find it all turned inside out.

Susan was the Theatre person. She started off by giving the children miming exercises, teaching them exaggerated movements; teaching them to let go and express, be free. In 6 days with an hour’s practice everyday, it was a wonderful effort.

Geetha turned up everyday to help the children practice their lines and make them go through it day after day.

Sapna turned up one day inspite of a lot of commitments and taught them a sizzling dance in one evening! The kids latched on and didn’t have to be taught again.They managed with little practice.

Jothi, Sumathi, turned up when they could to help.

Harshitha and Sangeetha helped a great deal with the props.

Sheela Nambiar helped with all the last minute props and masks of the tigers and bunny rabbits who were a great hit.

Kalyani, in whose home the practices where held had to supply tea and biscuits and generally driving people back and forth and getting them together.

The children were enthusiastic and energetic. So energetic and nonstop in their chatter and bickering that a great deal of the adult’s energy was spent in settling problems, wiping tears and getting them to make up. Another huge part was spent in discussing clothes and costumes. The need to apply ‘litick’ was discussed in great depth.

The play had 5 scenes with a great many comic elements which were enjoyed immensely. The theme was an old man talking to a young tourist and telling her of the days past when Thalaiyattumund was beautiful. Flashback to a scene of flowers and butterflies and gambolling tigers and rabbits and fresh water.

Cut to current day TM with a road that crooned and swayed. And silently moaned as housewives poured water and rubbish allover it. Greatly appreciated were the rowdies drinking and flinging bottles and cigarettes.

Interlude of a comic doctor who cures patients on his magic stool.

Then came the clean up brigade singing bits of paper and finally a sizzling dance.

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lots of thank yous and we made a graceful exit.

All pics on facebook. please look us up there.

The Food Carnival!

March 17, 2013

After consulting astrologers, the weather guys on the Net and vainly trying to get some information from all the scientific establishments we could think of ( to their chagrin ); we fixed 17th May, Sunday as a day of no rain in our heads and went ahead at dashing speed to create a unique Food Carnival.

The idea of getting the community to contribute food which we would sell was an idea that came forth from Jyothi Mehta, all of 27. Born into a community that thinks Food and spends a great deal of time in preparation and presentation she knew she could get all her family and friends to contribute. We went along, all promising to coerce all the generous minded people we knew to swim with us.

We decide d to hold the fete in our own premises which came free so we couldn’t sink, whatever happened. It is our first fund raiser, and we decided to keep within of what we knew was possible given our limited numbers.

The fertile brain of Jyothi added FOOD BOUTS, a Food competition to the arena.  This raised expectations and the quality of food donated. One portion would be on display while the rest would be sold. Nights she spent drafting out all the posters, badges, display material, and all the paper work that we needed with the help of cousin Nikita , home for the holidays between terms.

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We did all the printing on our printers at home to save costs and displayed them in various shops. Letters were sent to all the Rotary, Lions, and Innerwheel, Jaycees clubs. But most publicity was by world of mouth. We visited the colleges and spoke to students and staff.

For 10 days, we met on alternate afternoons in preparation. We discussed the dishes that were coming in and tried to plan a complete meal.

Sangeetha made caps for all our regular students, made posters outlining our activities which were displayed inspite of fever and a child who was writing the 10th standard exams. Sapna made beautiful handmade cards as thank you tokens while Jyothi supplied the chocolate biscuits. And decorated the space with a few streamers and balloons , climbing up step ladders herself bravely in a saree.  Sheela provided the embroidered luggage tags, a token to our judges and  coffee and biscuits to all of us at every meet.  Sumathi roped in judges, roped in a lot of contribution  and kept us on track with meticulous planning. Sheela Nambiar brought in tokens from two local establishments as prizes to the winners of the Food bouts. Sheela Powell arranged for the tents and tables, for coffee and tea and water.

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D- Day dawned bright and sunny. And that was the temper throughout inspite of a lot of glitches  which happened in spite of lots of planning.

Food came. And kept coming generously. Geetha and Sumathi registered entries and marked dishes with the names on stickers. People brought the food in, stayed to chat and eat and buy. There was a sense of ownership as they had contributed and they felt happy to be part of a good cause. People who had said they would bring something, did bring something , even if it was shop bought biscuits or a bottle of sauce or a couple of bottles of Pepsi.

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They ate, bought stuff for people back home ( we ran out of packaging material eventually), and sometimes went back and sent the people at home to have a look.

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The judges – of  Sullivan Court and Raj Mohan from Meritt  College -tasted and judged for a fairly long while. It was tough they said, the quality of food was so good.  The winners were cheered and went home very happy. Sapna looked after arrangements and the judges totally.

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Mrs. Jayalakshmi, 67, won in the Main Course with her soya stuffed poli. Isha won in the Snacks Category with cheese lollipops. Faranna won the desserts with  a Vanilla-Chocolate delight.

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Two volunteers from Light and Life School of Photgraphy in Ketti,  Shashi and Vaibhav came and took photographs the whole day. Hopefully we will get the professional photographs soon .

Prices were kept low to attract more buyers . By 4, we started packing up and distributed the small amount of food left.

We generated a lot of good will, met our target and made ourselves known to many people of Ooty.  People congratulated us on fabulous teamwork. Small and beautiful :-)))

Do it again was the theme we heard again and again.We will and much better.

Drawing & Colouring Competition

Although we had called it the Drawing and Painting Competition, there was hardly any painting – just one entry.  So , its better termed the Drawing and Colouring Competition.

With 66 entries, participants overflowed from the library into the corridor and then into the garage space outside. Registration took a long time with smaller children barely able to tell their age and then the confusions of those proud statements ‘ 6th going to 7th’.

Juniors from LKG upwards were given ‘ My house” or ‘Sunrise’. They generally drew whatever they liked.

Middle school liked My  School – there were several nice representations – while a few opted for ‘Forest’.

High school chose ‘My Favorite Place’ over ‘Rain’.

We had to supply pencils, rubbers and lots of crayon boxes. Luckily we were able to rise to the demands.

With two judges cancelling at the last moment, Sumathi, an artist who kindly came from Kotagiri, was our sole judge.

Snacks were given to all the children while they waited anxiously. And, so they could take something home, certificates for all.

Most heartening was the solid presence of the press. English papers, Tamil papers, they all turned up and stayed. They took pictures, interviewed us and promised to give support wherever needed.

In all a great day.

 

Annual General Body Meeting

President Dr.Vasantha finishes her welcome amidst good cheer. She is flanked by BJ. Krishnan looking very dapper and new member Sharadha, with Ritu.

Sharadha, Rajsekar and Dr.Jeyaram . Everyone looks grim – maybe this was the discussion on finances.

Lalitha Mohanraj who looks as if she is pondering whether she will join the team. Sumathi is weighed down by responsibilities as new Treasurer.

Bright in blue is Dr.Indra Nambiar who joins us today .

Dr.Vanaja  and Geetha.

Krishnamurthi , a new member brought in Bobby Chemmanur of Chemmanur Jewelers, a very surprise visitor.  He was pleasant and charming, agreed to become a member and as we hoped, volunteered to make a donation.

A Room of Our Own!

July 14, 2011

Siragugal was an idea born a few years ago.  A group of people came together with the  idea of creating a child friendly , free library where kids could spread their wings.

We hoped the  authorities would give us a  space  to  start. While many promises  were made, it was not to be.

After months of knocking at doors and ceaseless search,  we managed to find a room of our own for our library.  And it was worth the wait. A lovely,  calm space awaited us.

One of our members, Sheela; made this possible.  We decided to move in immediately with a small ceremony even though half the Siragugal group was away. Meet some of the group in the pictures, taken during the inaugural.

Happiness abounds as we conduct a simple ceremony, each of us lighting the lamp, starting off with the youngest.

Jothi , the youngest member, lightens us up

Vanaja adds brightness and the quirkiness that is needed to stir up doughy self-importance

BJ Krishnan- our guiding light gives us stability and sense . He  uplifts us with his  clear vision 

Kalyani and Sheela- Two of the pillars who got it going 

PriyaDarshini was a committed worker – even turning up with  Baby Advaith 

Refreshments  of course  makes an occasion complete.